AFC East: 2012 NFL draft

DAVIE, Fla. -- Let's travel back two years ago with the Miami Dolphins: It is 2012 and no secret that they're in desperate need of a quarterback in the NFL draft. The Chad Henne fiasco just ended and Miami hired a new head coach in Joe Philbin, who needed a quarterback to start his program.

The Dolphins, along with most likely 31 other teams, had Robert Griffin III rated higher than Ryan Tannehill. In fact, many believed it was a reach when Miami selected Tannehill No. 8 overall after Andrew Luck and Griffin were taken off the board with the first two picks by the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, respectively. Both were viewed as future superstars, and Tannehill was more of a project with just 19 career starts at Texas A&M.

Tannehill
Griffin
However, three seasons later, the Dolphins are better off with Tannehill than Griffin. Tannehill will start his 44th consecutive game for Miami (6-5) when it faces the New York Jets on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.”

Things haven't been perfect, but Tannehill has gradually improved each season and is on pace for a career year in 2014. He has thrown for 2,582 yards, 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. His passer rating is 93.4.

Most important, Tannehill still offers hope that he can be Miami's long-term solution at quarterback. He's playing arguably the best football of his career with a 4-2 record over his past six games.

“Yeah, I think he’s been playing better,” Philbin said of Tannehill. “I think he's been playing better for probably even a hair longer than that. Certainly, he’s been throwing the ball accurately and doing a good job running the offense.”

Griffin’s chances of doing the same for the Redskins have all but disappeared since he was benched this week in favor of third-string quarterback Colt McCoy. Griffin struggled the past two seasons since returning from major knee surgery. He has a 13-20 record as a starter, including a 4-14 mark in 2013 and 2014.

Granted, Tannehill also must win more games. He is 21-22 as a starter. But Tannehill's individual stats are up across the board in assistant Bill Lazor's new offense. Tannehill also has Miami in playoff contention in December for the second consecutive season.

“I don't know exactly how my numbers look, [but] I feel more and more comfortable the more games we play,” Tannehill said. “The guys around me are making plays right now. The line is protecting me. The run game is going pretty well. So when the guys around you are making plays and you can just get them the ball in space, it makes it a lot more fun to be a quarterback.”

The Dolphins will have a decision to make on Tannehill's future soon. He's under contract next season and the team must decide if it wants to pick up Tannehill’s fifth-year option. Miami also can determine if it wants to work out a long-term contract instead. Those choices are all in play.

But the Redskins apparently made a decision that Griffin is not the long-term solution at quarterback in Washington. It’s an interesting contrast of two third-year quarterbacks -- just six draft slots apart -- heading in opposite directions.
This is a time of optimism, as every team feels good about its rookie draft class. But sometimes fans in our AFC East community can go a little overboard.

For perspective, here are some comments from our community immediately following the 2012 NFL draft:

Miami Dolphins
  • “Am I the only one who thought the Dolphins' draft was awful? Ryan Tannenhill is shot, a wasted pick. They should’ve grabbed the best available player.”
  • “Sorry Fish fans, but having [Todd] McShay be a supporter of Ryan Tannehill is like a death sentence.”
  • “Outside of Tannehill, Miami had a really solid draft.”
  • “Tannehill is trash. He is an unproven QB and will not be successful in the NFL.”
  • “The Phins sleeper pick after round two will be TE Michael Egnew.”
  • “I think Egnew will be a beast. When was the last time we had a seam threat tight end who can catch and run a 4.4?”
  • “I like the Egnew pick because he can create mismatches over the middle as your prototype, seam-busting tight end. I'm lukewarm on the Lamar Miller pick but understand why we made it.”
Buffalo Bills
  • Tank Carder could be a steal and anchor the middle of the D for years to come.”
  • “TANK CARDER!!! I think he could come out of nowhere. I watched him on TV in multiple games at TCU. The man was a beast and all over the field.”
  • “Put your ear to the ground ... you can hear the stampede coming.”
  • “Say what ya want now, but the Bills take AFC crown.”
New York Jets
  • “The Jets hit homeruns on every one of their picks in every round this year. Got to be an A-plus draft.”
  • Stephen Hill is 6'4", 215, with 4.3 speed. So he didn't catch a lot of passes with the GT offense--neither did DeMaryius Thomas.”
New England Patriots
  • “[Patriots] also drafted Jake Bequette, who's more of pure pass-rusher than Chandler Jones and produced against SEC competition.”
  • “I'll bet Bequette becomes a force. Scary film.”
  • “Other than their last pick (cornerback Alfonzo Dennard), I thought the Patriots did a great job drafting.”
  • “Dennard has no value -- he will never play a single NFL game and he will be in jail before next year's draft.”

Remember last year?

Poll Friday: Best backup QB?

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
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Earlier this week we ranked the top starting quarterbacks in the AFC East. But what about their backups?

Backup quarterbacks are not thought about much until you really need them. An entire season can go completely down the drain if a team doesn’t have a solid No. 2 behind the starting quarterback.

SportsNation

Who is the best backup QB in the AFC East?

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    36%
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    20%
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    14%
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    9%
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    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,253)

In our latest edition of “Poll Friday,” we want to know who our community thinks is the best No. 2 quarterback in the AFC East. We have some interesting choices from all four teams.

Let’s start with Tim Tebow of the New York Jets. Perhaps no player in the NFL is more polarizing. Tebow is not your conventional quarterback, but he’s won in the playoffs at the NFL level, which is not easy. Is he the best security blanket at quarterback the division has to offer?

Is it Vince Young? The Buffalo Bills recently signed the former first-round pick as insurance behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Young has won games as a starter in Tennessee and Philadelphia. Is he the top backup quarterback in the division?

What about Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill? This year’s No. 8 overall pick has all the tools but just 19 collegiate starts. Is he ready for the NFL game? By the way, we are disqualifying Matt Moore and David Garrard from this poll until we find out who is the starter and backup.

Finally, the New England Patriots have backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. Both are unknowns, because they see little playing time behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Is Hoyer or Mallett the best backup quarterback in the AFC East?

Cast your vote using our SportsNation poll. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.

AFC East cornerback rankings

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
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We have ranked quarterbacks, tight ends, receivers and other positions this offseason in the AFC East. We continue our series Friday by ranking the best cornerbacks in the division.

No. 1: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets

Analysis: There's really no debate that Revis is the best cornerback in the AFC East; indeed, he's the best cornerback in the entire NFL. Revis is one of my favorite players to watch and is well on his way to being an all-time great. His coverage is so tight that I've seen receivers give up during games. The same goes for quarterbacks, who will stop looking in Revis' direction and cut off half the field for the offense. Revis gets a lot of hype but he is deserving. He's definitely as good as advertised.

No. 2: Antonio Cromartie, Jets

Analysis: Cromartie had a down year in 2011. But his body of work is good enough to earn Cromartie second place on this list. He's still an above-average corner. New York plays a lot of man-to-man coverage, and Cromartie gets plenty of opportunities because teams prefer to avoid Revis. But last year was hit or miss with Cromartie. Sometimes he won the battles, sometimes he didn’t. Cromartie’s tackling also leaves a lot to be desired. But when it comes to athleticism and play-making ability, Cromartie is better than most corners.

No. 3: Vontae Davis, Miami Dolphins

Analysis: Davis is still somewhat of an enigma, despite entering his fourth season. There are times when you see flashes of greatness -- but there are also times when Davis lacks focus and consistency. A case can be made that no AFC East corner had a better second half of the season in 2011 than Davis. He recorded four interceptions and a sack in his final eight games. Perhaps that will provide the momentum Davis needs to play at a high level for 16 games. There's no question Davis has the tools to put it all together.

No. 4: Community pick 'em

Analysis: I was racking my brain trying to figure out who I would rank as the fourth-best cornerback in the division and couldn’t come up with an answer. For example, I considered New England Patriots corner Devin McCourty, who had a Pro Bowl year in 2010 but was horrendous in 2011. Things were so bad that McCourty was moved to safety. I considered New York's Kyle Wilson, who made good strides in his second season but is only a nickel corner. New England's Kyle Arrington had a bunch of picks but also gave up a ton of big plays last year. Sean Smith of Miami is another corner who makes and gives up plays. I also like the potential of Buffalo Bills rookie Stephon Gilmore, but he’s yet to play in the NFL. So we're going to leave this open to our AFC East community. Who would you pick as the fourth-best corner in the division?

Bills: Dream/nightmare scenarios

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
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» AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Dream scenario (11-5): It would be a dream for Bills fans to see their team back in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The last time we saw Buffalo make the postseason, the Bills were the victim of the “Music City Miracle” in 1999. It has been a long line of disappointments and underachieving since that historic play. (Many Bills fans still contend that was a forward pass, by the way.) This year’s team looks poised to break the streak. This is the best team, on paper, that Buffalo has had in a long time. The offense will be dangerous if quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick improves his consistency in the passing game and Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and the running game stay consistent. Buffalo also made improvements to the defense, including drafting corner Stephon Gilmore in the first round and adding stud defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Chances are, everything won’t fall into place for Buffalo. But this is a sleeper team that does have a chance to make a jump and contend for the playoffs.

Nightmare scenario (5-11): Despite all the additions, there is no guarantee the Bills and their coaching staff can bring it all together in one year. What if Fitzpatrick continues to play like the second half of 2011 and is not the long-term solution? What if the defense struggles to make the transition to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt? What if big injuries again decimate this team? A lot can go wrong for the Bills, especially in a division where the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots are expected to dominate. The Bills are trying to catch up and cannot afford to make many mistakes in the AFC East. They were 1-5 against division foes last year. Bills head coach Chan Gailey is only 10-22 in his first two years in Buffalo. He has more talent than he has ever had with the Bills. There are no excuses for Gailey this year. It’s still somewhat of a mystery whether Gailey can coach. But we will find out in 2012.

Ranking AFC East defenses

May, 21, 2012
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Here is the AFC East blog's ranking of defenses heading into 2012:

No. 1: New York Jets

Analysis: The perception was stronger than the reality for New York's defense last year. The common train of thought is the Jets' defense had a significant drop off from previous years. The reality was New York finished fifth in total defense in 2011. Some aspects weren't consistent, such as the Jets' pass rush and covering tight ends over the middle. But New York still has the best cornerback duo in football and talent at all three levels. The Jets also added first-round pick Quinton Coples and hard-hitting safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Until the other division defenses rank in the top five, you have to give the Jets the edge in these rankings.

No. 2: Buffalo Bills

Analysis: The Bills were ranked No. 26th in total defense last year, but they are poised to make a big jump. Buffalo added a pass rush at defensive end with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and a starting cornerback in first-round pick Stephon Gilmore. Buffalo's defensive line with Williams, Anderson, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus should be one of the NFL's best. Nick Barnett is a talented linebacker. There's also talent in the secondary, particularly with safeties Jairus Byrd and George Wilson. Buffalo's defense has a lot of potential if it can come together quickly.

No. 3: Miami Dolphins

Analysis: This will surely upset Dolphins fans, many of whom feel their defense is elite. Well, as I've said before, Miami's defense is somewhat overrated. It's a good group and a tough group. But it's not elite. Miami was ranked No. 15 in total defense. Its pass defense was No. 25. The Dolphins are still looking for another pass-rusher opposite Cameron Wake, who had 8.5 sacks in 2011. They also lost their leading tackler in Bell and their leader in Jason Taylor, who retired. Miami will play more 4-3 concepts under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

No. 4: New England Patriots

Analysis: The Patriots were the second-worst defense in the league last year. But this is an offensive team that got away with it and nearly won the Super Bowl. New England's defense doesn't cover well and needs to get to the quarterback more. The Patriots added plenty of pass-rushers in free agency and the draft. Perhaps that will help the back end. But New England's offense is so good that it probably won't matter much. If the defense improves from No. 31 to the top 20, that's enough for the Patriots to remain one of the elite NFL teams.

Pressure point: Bills

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
11:45
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» NFC pressure points: West | North | South | East
» AFC pressure points: West | North | South | East

Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Bills and why.

Things are looking up for the Buffalo Bills. A team that finished 6-10 and in last place in the AFC East in 2011 had arguably the league's best offseason. The Bills acquired defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, drafted first-round cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and gave contract extensions to in-house stars Fred Jackson and Steve Johnson.

But each move adds more pressure to third-year Bills coach Chan Gailey, who is 10-22 in his first two seasons in Buffalo.

Is Gailey a good NFL head coach? It's hard to say. He was 18-14 in two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before he was abruptly fired. Gailey still carries that sting after being relieved of his position without ever posting a losing season in Dallas. He has struggled in Buffalo, but hasn't had nearly the same talent that he had with the Cowboys.

Talent is no longer a question this year in Buffalo. The Bills spent to the cap to nab top free agents, and many in-house players are coming into their own. Buffalo now has enough talent to make a playoff push. The question is, can Gailey and his staff put it all together?

This is a no-excuses year for Gailey. It's time to finally show what he can do in Buffalo with a bevy of talent at his disposal.

Pressure point: Dolphins

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
10:15
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» NFC pressure points: West | North | South | East
» AFC pressure points: West | North | South | East

Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Dolphins and why.

Some starting NFL quarterbacks have one challenger breathing down their neck waiting to take their job. But very few incumbents have two quarterbacks gunning for them. That is the situation Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins is in.

Moore is coming off a career year, going 6-3 in his last nine starts for Miami in 2011. He was the second most consistent quarterback in the AFC East after Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. However, that wasn't nearly enough for Moore to enter this season as Miami's unquestioned starter. He has to compete with veteran David Garrard in training camp.

Even if Moore fends off Garrard in the short term, he would still have to fight off Dolphins first-round pick Ryan Tannehill in the long term. Tannehill is clearly the quarterback of the future in Miami. How quickly Tannehill will take over depends on the rookie's learning curve and Moore's ability to win games.

It's a high-pressure situation for Moore, as it appears nothing will be good enough in Miami. Moore is entering the final year of his contract, and even if he puts up big numbers, Tannehill is expected to take his job for good in 2013.

Moore proved last season that he can handle pressure. He pulled the 0-7 Dolphins out of the gutter by infusing new energy. Miami played solid football in the second half of the season.

But this is a situation Moore won't survive with the Dolphins. The best he can hope for is to beat out Garrard and get enough playing time this year to show another team he can be a long-term starter.
We have another interesting poll this weekend in the AFC East blog. The Buffalo Bills made an interesting quarterback addition Friday by singing former first-round pick Vince Young. It adds depth to Buffalo’s duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen.

SportsNation

Who has the second-best QB situation in the AFC East?

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    51%
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    18%
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    31%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,050)

With that said, who has the second-best quarterback situation in the AFC East? Tom Brady and the New England Patriots obviously lead the way, so we are (again) taking the reigning AFC champs out of the equation.

Do you like the Bills’ trio of Fitzpatrick, Thigpen and now Young? Fitzpatrick is the unquestioned starter, and Thigpen and Young will battle for the No. 2 role. Both can move well in the pocket and have starting experience.

What about the New York Jets? They have starter Mark Sanchez and popular backup Tim Tebow. Both have won in the playoffs. Greg McElroy is the developmental No. 3 quarterback.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins have an interesting trio of Matt Moore, David Garrard and Ryan Tannehill. Moore and Garrard are expected to battle for the starting job this year, while Tannehill, a first-round pick, is the quarterback of the future. Is this the most talented trio?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on the second-best quarterback group in the division. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
We have another interesting "Poll Friday" question in the AFC East. The division had five first-round picks this year, and we want to know who will make the biggest rookie impact in 2012.

SportsNation

Which first-round pick will make the biggest impact in 2012?

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    12%
  •  
    13%
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    19%
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    19%
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    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,740)

Let's start with the highest pick in the division: Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins. The former Texas A&M quarterback has two veterans ahead of him. But Tannehill has all the tools to eventually become a starter. Will he get a chance to make a splash in Miami?

Buffalo Bills rookie corner Stephon Gilmore is a solid player who will contribute immediately. He's going to be a Week 1 starter in Buffalo's secondary and was taken No. 10 overall. Can Gilmore make the biggest impact with the Bills' defense?

Or will it be defensive end Quinton Coples of the New York Jets? New York head coach Rex Ryan loves Coples' athleticism and versatility and plans to use Coples at different positions. Will Coples improve his motor in the pros and produce?

Finally, the New England Patriots took two defensive players: defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Will either rookie make the biggest impact this year?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on which AFC East rookie will make the biggest splash in 2012. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East:
  • The Buffalo Bills new-look 4-3 defense will be on the attack.
Morning take: The key to a successful 4-3 is the defensive line, and that's the strength of the Bills. Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus are as formidable a group as you will find.
Morning take: Wake is a good player, but this is more in line with Wake's true value. Many Dolphins fans were upset when I said the original report of four years at $49 million was too much. The Dolphins would agree.
Morning take: I don't think anyone is surprised. It's another example of "Gronk being Gronk."

Morning take: Devito was hurt last season and the team drafted Quinton Coples in the first round as his replacement. Devito will be the first defensive end off the bench.

Walker's weekend mailbag

May, 6, 2012
5/06/12
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Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.

Mike from Ireland writes: James, what are your thoughts on the New England Patriots' cornerbacks?

James Walker: I'm not high on them, Mike. It's not a bad group on paper. But when you see them on the field, it doesn't add up. It's a lot of missed assignments, failing to stick to receivers, etc. The corners on the Patriots simply don’t cover well. Bill Belichick is almost forced to play zone to even have a chance to stop the good quarterbacks and passing game. We saw that in the Super Bowl.


Ari S from Boston writes: With BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone, should the Patriots pursue free-agent running back Cedric Benson?

Walker: Nope. Bad fit and has character concerns, Ari. The Patriots are better off sticking with their young running backs. There is enough potential there where New England doesn't have to force it and take on a risk.


Ben from New York writes: If New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow doesn't end up starting this year, what sort of stat line can we expect from him?

Walker: Interesting question, Ben. A lot of people are expecting Tebow to start at some point, either through injury or performance. But if everything goes well for New York's offense, I think it's realistic to expect 300-400 yards rushing from Tebow, and maybe about 200 yards passing. The sum of 500-700 total yards is very solid from a backup quarterback, who usually contributes next to nothing on most teams.


Jason from Brooklyn, NY, wants to know if recently release corner Drew Coleman could be a target for the Jets.

Walker: Yes, Jason, I do see this as a potential match for several reasons. First, Coleman obviously played well for the Jets and knows the system. Second, he's versatile and can play in the nickel spot. Third, Darrelle Revis is in a contract dispute and you just never know how far this is going to go. Coleman can add more depth behind Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson just in case.


BUM from Chesapeake, VA, writes: James, any chance the Miami Dolphins try to upgrade the receiver corps with anyone still on the market?

Walker: Yes, Bum, the Dolphins are one of several teams who could make a late addition at receiver. But right now Miami wants to see what it has in mini-camps and offseason workouts before making that decision. There are some interesting names out there. Jacoby Jones and Braylon Edwards are two of the top receivers looking for jobs. I also mentioned Donald Driver as a possibility for Miami if Green Bay cuts him, because of Driver's history with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. But Miami doesn't have much cap space left and still has to get the Cameron Wake situation resolved. That could force the Dolphins to stay put for now.


Hernán from Argentina writes: Do you think the Dolphins are rebuilding? How many games do you think they can win this season?

Walker: Absolutely, Hernan, the Dolphins are in rebuild mode. They are setting up the team for the long-term, which is what the Dolphins must do. They're not catching the Patriots anytime soon. I think Miami is under a 2-3 year plan, with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's development being the key.


Brandon from New Windsor, NY, writes: Who do you see as the best potential receiver to step up and be a solid No. 2 receiver for the Buffalo Bills? T.J. Graham? Donald Jones? Marcus Easley?

Walker: We examined this question on Friday, Brandon. Buffalo drafted Graham with hopes that he can produce right away. He has the speed, but you never know with a third-round pick. Jones is coming off an injury and has to prove he can bounce back, and Easley is unproven. I would peg Jones and Graham as the favorites. If that doesn’t work outm moving David Nelson from the slot again would be an alternative.


Pat from Erie, Pa., writes: With the Bills having a pretty solid offseason so far, do you think they are closing the gap between them and the other AFC East teams?

Walker: Absolutely, Pat. It's no secret now that Buffalo is my sleeper pick for 2012. Although I'm not ready to make predictions in terms of record, I think the Bills are in position to definitely improve on their 6-10 record this year. A big component will be winning in the division. The Bills have to beat the Jets and Dolphins to turn things around. That is the key. Buffalo split with New England last year, but that's more of a luxury.


DieHard III from Houston, TX, writes: Can you come up with your best definition of what an elite QB is?

Walker: Everyone has their own definition of "elite," DieHard. So I wouldn't say my interpretation is the general consensus. But I view an elite quarterback as one of the top five or seven players at their position. Guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and you can throw Eli Manning in, as well. It's a combination of being a prolific passer and winning. Some can do one but not the other. But the elite quarterbacks can do both.


Comment and complaint department

Lawrence Miller from Wallingford, VT, writes: How many Super Bowl rings do you have? Bill Belichick has a few.

Walker: Lawrence, I assume this has something to do with criticizing New England's second-round pick of little-known safety Tavon Wilson. Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time. You will rarely see any criticism of Belichick's coaching in the AFC East blog, because he makes nearly all the right moves. However, that doesn't mean his personnel decisions are perfect. Belichick makes personnel mistakes like everyone else, especially in the second round. So it's fair to question the Wilson pick. He wasn't invited to the combine and most didn't think he had a second-round grade. At the very least, New England could've waited a couple rounds before taking this kind of reach.


JR from Tampa Bay writes: I think the Tannehill pick was horrid as a Phin-fan. A head coach has a 3-4 year shelf life and putting a first round pick into a guy who's probably 2-3 years off from a quality starter isn't good. If he fails to develop, that means in a few years we'll be looking for a new head coach and a new QB. The Phins turned it around in the last half of the previous season so as a fan, this back to square one rebuilding is going to be painful. IMO they should have just bite the bullet and brought Chad Henne back for one more year to compete with Moore and then traded whatever it took to draft Matt Barkley next year.

Walker: JR, you lost me with bringing Henne back and trying to get Barkley. That just wasn’t going to happen. Henne had four seasons to prove he was the guy and clearly wasn't. How many chances should Henne get? Barkley is a projection. The Dolphins probably would have to win two or three games next season to have a shot at Barkley, a projected top three pick. You can't count on that. Other than that, I understand you're point about Tannehill. The Dolphins have put their reputation on the line with him. But listening to the team's brass over the weekend, the Dolphins are convinced he’s the guy. We probably won’t know for a couple years.


Clint Buckland from Webster, TX, writes: I'm predicting Ryan Tannahill will win the QB job by Week 10. In your opinion, what's the odds?

Walker: I view that as the starting point, Clint. Week 10 is probably the earliest to expect Tannehill in the lineup, barring injury. Miami thinks it can be competitive with a veteran quarterback, while mentoring Tannehill. I don't expect the Dolphins to win many games. So I think there's a chance Tannehill can play late in the year just to get his feet wet before eventually taking over in 2013.


Nick from Buffalo writes: How in the world did Buffalo -- one of the up and coming teams in the league -- only get one prime time game? And it's a Thursday night game? C'mon man!!!!

Walker: Buffalo fans and your AFC East blogger are the only people who think the Bills have potential this year, Nick. That's why they are called a "sleeper" pick. All I ask is Buffalo fans remember who called it before anyone else.


Jesse from Long Island writes: Hey James, what do you think the Jets' record next year will be and where will they rank in the AFC East? I think they can go 12-4 honestly, with loses to New England once, San Diego, Houston, and San Francisco. Looking at the rest of their schedule, it seems pretty easy. If not 12-4, do you at least see them getting at least 10 wins?

Walker: Jesse, I think 12 wins are too ambitious for this year's Jets. But 10 wins are possible if a lot of things fall their way. Will quarterback Mark Sanchez have a career year? Will the sniping and in-fighting stop? Will the safety play and pass-rush improve? Can right tackle Wayne Hunter block consistently this year? These are some of the questions that have to be answered for New York to get back to the playoffs.


AFC East Homer of the week

Ferko from Denver, Colorado, writes: I don't understand why everyone is giving the Jets so much grief. This will go down as the best Jets draft in history without a doubt. It'll take 2 years before Quinton Coples is constantly winning DPOY awards, and I can promise that Stephen Hill will most likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after he breaks all of Jerry Rice's records.

Walker: Sloooow down, Ferko. Nothing screams homer more than putting rookie draft picks in the Hall of Fame before they play their first snap. Despite some questions, I like the potential of both Coples and Hill. Their ceilings are high and I think New York has a chance to hit a home run with both picks. But let's not make Coples the best defensive player in the NFL or make Hill the greatest receiver of all time. That's way too much. Congrats, Ferko, on being our AFC East "Homer of the Week."
Here are the most interesting stories Saturday morning in the AFC East:
  • In the first day of rookie minicamp, New York Jets first-round pick Quinton Coples was impressive.
Morning take: Jets head coach Rex Ryan says Coples could've had several sacks in his first practice. Coples is being moved around, which could be a preview to his role this season.
Morning take: Martin has a lot of attributes Miami likes, but strength could be a concern.
  • Speaking of offensive linemen, Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix says second-round pick Cordy Glenn can play offensive tackle in the NFL.
Morning take: Glenn played most of his career at guard but finished at left tackle. Buffalo needs a tackle more and will give Glenn a chance on the left side.

Morning take: This has been in the works for weeks. Light had a stellar career with New England and could have finished out the final year of his contract. But Light is ready for life after football.
First-round quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn't the only rookie worth watching Friday for the Miami Dolphins.

Here are some additional notes from Miami's rookie minicamp:
  • A lot of Dolphins fans are intrigued about fourth-round pick Lamar Miller from the University of Miami. He is considered one of the sleeper picks in this draft, whose stock fell because of a recent shoulder injury. The rookie tailback says he's getting healthy. He ran without limitation during team drills. "I felt pretty good to just come out here to compete," Miller said. "I’m showing the coaches what I can bring to the team, whether it's special teams or the offensive side of the ball."
  • It's just one practice, but rookie seventh-round receiver Rishard Matthews outperformed sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham. Both will be battling for roster spots this summer. In fact, there's a chance both could be fighting for the same roster spot. Matthews made some nice catches, including a beautiful deep ball from Tannehill in team drills. Cunningham's biggest play was a drop over the middle from Tannehill that led to an interception.
  • Third-round pick Olivier Vernon is another hometown product from the University of Miami. He grew up in Miami, played for the Hurricanes and is now expected to add a pass rush for the Dolphins. "It's a better feeling to represent your hometown and put Miami on your back," Vernon said. "I knew they needed a pass-rusher, but I didn’t think [Miami] would be interested in me."
  • An underrated note was second-year quarterback Pat Devlin showing up this weekend to compete at rookie minicamp. Devlin hung around last year, mostly on Miami's practice squad. But Devlin knows his tenure is on thin ice after Miami acquired Tannehill in the draft and David Garrard in free agency. Devlin needs to get as many reps as possible now and most likely will have to land with another team.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' quarterback of the future is doing everything he can this weekend to prove he can be the quarterback of the present.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami's No. 8 overall pick, looked in control during his first NFL practice. Tannehill showed off his strong arm and natural leadership in rookie mini-camp Friday. Tannehill says he already knows about "80-85 percent" of the playbook, which is very similar to the offense he ran in college.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Ryan Tannehill
Steve Mitchell/US PRESSWIREA contract dispute is perhaps crippling Ryan Tannehill's hopes of starting in the season opener.
Last week, Tannehill became the first quarterback taken in the opening round by the Dolphins since Dan Marino in 1983. Tannehill gives the city of Miami hope that this struggling franchise can eventually turn it around.

However, Tannehill is not expected to start right away. That distinction goes to veterans David Garrard or Matt Moore, who are expected to compete for the starting job in training camp while Tannehill gets up to speed.

It's early, but Tannehill was the best player on the field Friday amongst his rookie peers. He made some big-time throws, including a well-timed bomb to seventh-round pick Rishard Matthews. Tannehill also showed good mobility and command of the huddle. Several times he had to get less-familiar rookies lined up properly before running the play.

"I hope I'm looked at as a leader of the team, especially at this rookie mini-camp," Tannehill said. "A quarterback should be leaders of the team. I want to try to get guys going, and get guys playing together and make everyone around me better."

Things weren't perfect in Tannehill's first practice. He threw an interception over the middle in team drills after rookie sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham dropped the ball. In fact, there were three drops on the day from rookie receivers. That had to feel familiar for Tannehill, who suffered from drops last season at Texas A&M.

It's not just the rookies. The receiver position as a whole will be a major question in Miami. Dolphins head coach and former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin wants to run an up-tempo West Coast offense that puts pressure on the defense.

"I thought overall the tempo was good and the effort was good," Philbin said of Friday's practice. "We told them in the meeting room our expectation wasn't that the execution would be perfect. I'm sure the film will verify that when we take a look at it."

The Dolphins have a long time to improve on the details between now and September. But overall the first day of the Tannehill era looked pretty good, all things considered. The rookie needs to continue having solid practices like Friday to convince Miami's coaches he's ready for the NFL.

"Guys are working hard and guys are making plays," Tannehill said. "I'm trying to help out as much as I can. Being in the offense for four years back at [Texas] A&M, it's not my first go-around."

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